Memorandum of Conversation, by Peter Delaney, Office of South Asian Affairs



  • Pakistan’s 1953–54 Food Situation


  • Sir Zafrulla Khan, Foreign Minister, Government of Pakistan
  • Mohammed Ali, Pakistan Ambassador to the United States
  • DMS—Mr. Ohly
  • DMS—Mr. Norman Paul
  • S/MSA—Mr. Martin
  • S/MSA—Mr. Frechtling
  • SOA—Mr. Delaney

Sir Zafrulla Khan indicated that he wished to present the US Government with the facts on the food shortage situation which was developing in Pakistan with respect to the 1953–54 wheat crop. He stated his Government’s gratitude with the loan which the US Government had recently made to Pakistan to enable Pakistan to purchase wheat in the United States. He said that the wheat crop in Pakistan in the coming season would fall short of Pakistan’s ordinary crop. Last December the estimate had been made that the crop would fall short by 1 million tons; this figure was subsequently raised to 1.2 million tons and now it appeared from investigations made last week that the shortage would be 1.5 million tons. He placed the responsibility for this largely on the alleged progressive reduction by the Government of India in the amount of water for irrigation made available by India to Pakistan. Three of the rivers which irrigated Pakistan flowed first through India. The amount of water in West Pakistan was estimated in the 1953–54 season to be only 78 percent of that in 1952–53, a figure which, since it included all West Pakistan, did not indicate the full extent to which the water from sources originating in India had been reduced.

Sir Zafrulla also referred to the extraordinary drought which had occurred for the second year running as a cause of the shortfall.

The Government of Pakistan would continue to make every effort to work with the International Bank in its efforts to solve the problem of the Indus basin waters and Sir Zafrulla referred to the present investigation on an engineering basis by a tri-partite team of the water uses of the Indus Basin. The Government of Pakistan’s position was that in accordance with their agreement with India no reduction should have taken place or take place, on the basis of established uses. They had made their views known to the International Bank.

[Page 1823]

Sir Zafrulla said that he had been asked by his Government to make an official request of the US Government that Pakistan be “put in a position” to be able to obtain 1 to 1.5 million tons of grain to make up the anticipated shortfall in the 1953–54 crop. He indicated that this could be done on a long-term loan basis or possibly as a gift, or on some combination of these two means which could be discussed subsequently. They were in extremis and they had to feed their people.

Mr. Ohly asked what was the period of need to which Sir Zafrulla had been referring. Responses of the Pakistani officials were at first somewhat imprecise but on the basis of a crop shortfall in the general period of April, 1953 to April, 1954 they stated that they wanted one–sixth to one–fourth of the total mentioned to be made available immediately, with the feeling that the amount of wheat forthcoming from the harvest, which would start in late February, would with this amount of imports keep them going until late summer or early fall of 1953.

Sir Zafrulla said that the foreign exchange position of Pakistan was extremely low, that the amount of wheat which they had been obliged to pay for in this last year had been a great burden both on their foreign exchange position and on their budget. The budget had been seriously affected because other imports had had to be cut, thus reducing their budgetary receipts from their main sources of revenue: customs duties. Their blocked sterling, he said, had been liquidated.

Mr. Martin asked whether the Government of Pakistan had in mind exploring the same sources as had been the case with respect to last year and referred to the fact that Turkey had been a source and had an exportable surplus of wheat. Sir Zafrulla indicated that Turkey was a possible source but that they had little money with which to finance the imports. Ambassador Ali said that Turkey had been able to make such remarkable progress in its food production because of increased farm mechanization; that was a need of Pakistan. Sir Zafrulla indicated that mechanization was only part of the answer; it was not too useful in the Punjab, but it was possible in the Sind and in accelerating the Thal and lower Sind Barrage projects.

Mr. Martin asked whether the shortfall figure mentioned by the Pakistani officials was that of a deficit which must be met from external sources of supply or a total which might be met from both internal and external sources. He referred to the fact that when the US government was considering Pakistan’s shortage last year, there had been indications that hoarding might have been a significant factor and that the import of wheat might have resulted in dishoarding by Pakistani farmers. The Pakistani officials stated that they did not know whether dishoarding had resulted, but in any case the amounts of wheat thus available had already been absorbed.

Mr. Delaney asked at what time it might be possible to determine [Page 1824] more precisely the extent of the shortage. Sir Zafrulla replied that they would be able and would be glad to give us official figures on a continuing basis.

Mr. Paul asked whether the Pakistan Government anticipated that this food shortage was becoming a chronic situation. The Pakistani officials replied that they recognized that they would have to make every effort to increase food production in Pakistan. They were now doing this through an acceleration of the Thal project and through the temporary measure of installing tube wells. They were also converting land from production of cash crops to food production. On the matter of population pressure, which had been raised, Sir Zafrulla referred to the influx of refugees after partition and said that they were still getting 200 to 500 a day. He thought that their rate of population increase, while too high, was considerably lower than that of India. They recognized that their first responsibility was food production and they would work on this also through the US technical assistance program. They saw this situation which had arisen with great grief because they had hoped that, instead of taking, they might have been able to provide food to the Commonwealth. They had ordinarily, they said, had a small exportable surplus from West Pakistan, some of which could be devoted to East Pakistan and some to other countries, but they no longer had this surplus. Sir Zafrulla said that he hoped that for the next year (1954–55 crop year) they might end up even but that they would have to be on the qui vive to achieve this.

Mr. Ohly said he would take the earliest opportunity to present the matter to Mr. Stassen. A request of this magnitude created problems for the US Government. Even on the comparatively small amount which we had made available last year to Pakistan there had been very great difficulties in obtaining the funds. Foreign aid funds were made available by the Congress for specific uses in specific countries, and while Pakistan’s request had been small in proportion to total US aid, the fact that funds had been so appropriated and so allocated had made it very difficult for us. In the present instance, because of the magnitude involved, it would likely be necessary to go to the Congress for action; the President, Mr. Dulles and Mr. Stassen would consider what could be done. Meanwhile, the Pakistan Government could be assured that their problem would be sympathetically considered. He expressed his gratitude for the clear and frank exposition which Sir Zafrulla had made of Pakistan’s problem.

Sir Zafrulla indicated surprised gratification and stated that his Government made this request with great grief—that they had hoped not to have to bother us with such a problem, although they had other problems—political problems—on which they did wish our assistance. The United States had no obligation to assist them or the rest of the world in the manner in which it had so assisted and the United States had not received sufficient gratitude from the world.